Thursday, January 25, 2007

Don't Know Much about Ontology

The first international conference on the Philosophy of Computer Games opened with Espen Aarseth’s keynote address about how games represented a conglomeration of real, virtual, and fictional objects. Aarseth used the examples of money, labyrinth, and – somewhat less persuasively – doors in game worlds to illustrate his assertion that we already accept the reality of certain conventional constructs and that money with exchange value was a very different entity from the prop Danish monopoly money he brought with him to demonstrate the point. He argued that virtual objects could be imagined, observed, used, manipulated, and explored, and also acknowledged that certain fictional particulars (the age of the Earth in the Bible or the depiction of the city of London in a novel) could also be tested. However, some audience members objected that Aarseth may be underestimating the traditional cultural work of fiction by privileging models generated by computer simulations.

In the rest of the day’s sessions on the theme of “computer game entities,” many of the interested philosophers present seemed to share Aarseth’s premise about the reality of game objects and were willing to defend their ontological status on a number of logical grounds. They were also interested in using game environments to test philosophical ideas and would prove to be eager to collaborate with game designers for that purpose.



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